Just the Two of Us Image

Just the Two of Us

By Sumner Forbes | June 14, 2024

Say what you will about your standard melodrama. There’s always an audience willing to see inordinately attractive people getting it on. And in France, I imagine the relative proficiency and frequency with which they get released has, one would imagine, become a source of pride. Just the Two of Us, an emotional tale of abuse from Valérie Donzelli, fits the above descriptors like a glove. Steamy, intense, and very French. What’s not to love?

Blanche and Rose Renard are twins (both played by the luminous Virginie Efira) living with their widowed mother in coastal France. Blanche, the more bashful of the twins, is pushed by Rose to loosen up and find a man — and does she ever! Blanche subsequently reunites with an old-school chum, Grégoire (Melvil Poupaud), at a raucous party at a local beach house. They hit it off and ended up sleeping together. Before we knew it, she was moving in with him and away from her mother and sister. He supposedly has to move because of a work transfer, but there’s more to it. It wouldn’t be a very interesting melodrama if he didn’t turn out to be a controlling scumbag!

When the film isn’t delving into the more troubling aspects of their abusive relationship, it’s undeniably sexy. This is what audiences will come for, and in that sense, it’s very reminiscent of something your mom would rent at Blockbuster in the 90s. Efira and her sparring partner, Poupaud, have a great deal of chemistry together physically, and they carry this with the film, with the latter becoming a convincing portrait of an abusive man that one won’t readily forget.

“Blanche subsequently reunites with an old-school chum…at a raucous party at a local beach house.”

Efira has had an amazing run of late in Europe (Benedetta and Other People’s Children immediately come to mind), and her work in the film should only serve to bring her further recognition here in the States. The film clearly works because she’s in it, and Donzelli is wise to keep her front and center seemingly throughout the whole picture (also as Blanche’s twin). We see and hear the film through her experience, and we’re all the richer because of it.

Even though the two leads are fantastic, the film can’t escape feeling conventional. We’ve seen this film before, and there’s nothing that will surprise us as Donzelli brings the film to its tumultuous conclusion. It doesn’t help that our first introduction to Blanche is through an interview with a lawyer regarding their relationship, instantly forecasting to the audience what’s going to happen as the narrative progresses through flashbacks. Nixing this structure and keeping the audience engaged with the story as it progresses would have made for more effective storytelling.

Just the Two of Us won’t win any points for originality (it seems that stories like this are the all the rage on streamers), but it works as a well-constructed drama that checks the boxes of what people watching it want — an intense tale of conflict with two hot people. In that regard, we can definitely count this as a success.

Just the Two of Us (2023)

Directed: Valérie Donzelli

Written: Audrey Diwan, Valérie Donzelli, Éric Reinhardt

Starring: Virginie Efira, Melvil Poupaud, Dominique Reymond, Virginie Ledoyen, etc.

Movie score: 7/10

Just the Two of Us Image

"…reminiscent of something your mom would rent at Blockbuster in the 90s."

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